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The new authoritarians - PDF - / Send As Email
The New Right Papers, by Robert W. Whitaker, ...
by Roy A. Childs, Jr
In Inquiry, June 1982, pp. 30-34 - Previous Article / Next Article

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The New Right Papers, edited by Robert W. Whitaker. St. Martin's Press,
226 PP.. $12.95.
Post-Conservative America: People, Politics, and Ideology in a
Time of Crisis, by Kevin P. Phillips. Random House, 320 pp., $14.50.
Speak Out: Against the New Right, edited by Herbert F. Vetter. Beacon
Press, 188 pp., $14.50. The new
authoritarians
ROY A . CHILDS, JR.
N T H E IMMEDIA T E AFTER-
math of Ronald Reagan's sweep I to power, an uproar was heard
from two different quarters of the
American political scene. In the offices
of the victorious leaders of the emerg-
ing New Right, there was a great deal
of strutting and beating of chests;
across the political barricades, in the
liberal camp, there was much hand-
wringing and proclaiming of apoca-
lypse. "What did we do wrong?" the
liberals were asking ingenuously, hav-
ing failed to recognize how far re-
moved from their constituents they
had actually become. For years they
had belittled predictions and warn-
ings of a swing to the right, and now
they had no idea of how it had come
about, or how profound it was.
The growth of the New Right over
the past half-dozen years has been
one of the most complex and remark-
able shifts in modern political history.
That movement is as different from the
older Right as George Wallace is from
Barry Goldwater. I t has groped its
way to a position that free-market con-
servatives find nearly unrecognizable,
while developing a n organizing
strategy that combines the grass-roots
activism of the 1960s New Left with
ROY A . CIIILUS. J R , is a polzq anabs! with
!he Ca!o I n s t h f e of Washzngton, D. C.
30
modern direct-mail computer wizard-
ry. The New Right is politically so-
phisticatcd, and knows what it is after:
the replacement of what it sees as a
liberal establishment by its own
populist, authoritarian movement. In
a profound sense, then, the New Right
is not conservative a t all; it is a radical,
even revolutionary, movement, as
scornful of conservatism as of liberal-
ism, as hostile to a laissez-jaire free
market as to socialism.
While in many ways the New Right
has been under construction since the
'Wallace for President campaign of
1968, it has only come of age in the
past few years. In his essay in Robert
Whitaker's The New Right Papers,
Richard Viguerie claims that "if there
was a single moment you can point to
as the beginning of the New Right, it
came in August 1974." For years con-
servatives had worked within the Re-
publican Party, but they faced one
humiliating defeat after another, as
their congressional leaders compro-
mised and sold out to Republican
"moderates." Then, in 1974, Nixon
resigned; Gerald Ford became presi-
dent and chose the hated liberal-
Republican Nelson Rockefeller as his
vice president.
"The night after Ford's announce-
ment," Viguerie recalls, " I held a din-
ner for about fifteen conservative
friends in Washington to plan a
strategy to stop Rockefeller from win-
ning confirmation." But it was no use;
the liberals in both parties had victory
locked up. And there was the problem,
Viguerie thought: Liberalism was in
fact an independent power transcend-
ing the two major parties, while con-
servatism was not. Viguerie, together
with his associates, resolved to make
conservatism into such a force, so that
Republicans could no longer take their
support for granted.
The frustration of these New Right
leaders-the name was given to them
by Kevin Phillips in 1975-led to a
whirlwind ofdedicated activism, orga-
nization, and fundraising. Their aim
was to take control of the Republican
Party, or to start a new party if they
couldn't, in order to overthrow the
liberal establishment and assume con-
trol.
H Y DO THEY DESPISE
the liberal establishment W so? To hear them tell it, it
is for fine, Jeffersonian reasons with
which a libertarian could readily sym-
pathize. They and their constituents
regard liberalism as tyrannical, as an
alien force in American society that
has seized power and is using the
federal government to impose on them
an agenda they find loathsome.
The best expression of this sense of
having been violated is the essay in The
New Right Papers by Samuel T. Fran-
cis, legislative assistant to Senator
John East (R-N.C.), himselfone ofthe
most prominent leaders of the move-
ment. The New Right, he says, is a
populist response to "perceived injus-
tices, unrelieved exploitation by
anonymous powers t h a t be, a
threatened future, and an insulted
past." He uses Donald Warren's con-
cept of "Middle American Radicals"
(MARS), who are resentful of both the
rich and the poor, since "the rich give
in to the demands of the poor, and the
middle income people have to pay the
Many of the New Right theorists
identify a "new ruling class," and
Robert Whitaker, head of The Populist
Forum and a conspicuous participant
in the West Virginia textbook con-
I 9 x 2
bi11.7'
.I (,..I?


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